It’s fair to say that there was a collective cheer amongst the Celtic support when it was announced that the 2019/20 Scottish Cup would be played to a finish this year.
The Hoops would finally be given their rightful shot of winning the Scottish Cup and the quadruple-treble. Winning all three of Scottish football’s major honours for a fourth consecutive campaign would be a first in this country. Something that would rubber-stamp Celtic’s decade of dominance on the game up here.
Perhaps it’s a sign of how spoiled supporters like myself have been that it didn’t even occur to me we would be toiling in the run-up to it. In typically naive fashion, I simply assumed that we were going to stroll to success after success and build a nice start to our season from it.
But I think I can be forgiven for thinking that our house was going to be in order at the start of our most important season since 1997/98 – the year we stopped Rangers winning the 10.
Instead, it’s been a total shambles. You can count the good performances this season on just one hand. Several others have been masked by the odd goal that’s helped secure us three points. Wins have a funny way of totally covering dreadful displays.
But Neil Lennon hasn’t had that fallback over the last two months. Rangers (L), Milan (L), Aberdeen (D), Lille (D), Aberdeen (W), Sparta Prague (L), Motherwell (W), Hibernian (D). Two wins in eight games. This is Celtic we’re talking about here. Three of these performances have been acceptable.
Considering how anxious we all are to secure the 10 this season, our recent failings in the Premiership have seen us long to get ourselves back on top form. As such, there’s a constant desire from us all to get the league back underway and start picking up vital wins in it once more.
Aberdeen at Hampden didn’t feel like a big occasion
The Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen felt anything like a semi-final. The 2-0 win came on the back of some dismal results that had firmly taken the excitement out of the cup tie. Granted, having no fans didn’t help either.
And now we find ourselves in an even worse situation. 11 points behind our rivals (with two games in hand) and just about dead and buried in our Europa League group. It’s been a shocking last month and a bit. If this was Football Manager, we’d have restarted from a previous save long beforehand.
Hearts in the Scottish Cup final is now slowly creeping up on us. We have six games before then and only two of them are in the Premiership. And due to our poor form, there has been so much excitement taken away from that cup final at Hampden.
You’ll do well to find many Celtic fans who are getting giddy about the December 20th showpiece. The reason? It represents last season, and last season is now firmly in the past with the celebrations all over. Yet securing the Scottish Cup will secure an unprecedented achievement that may never be repeated in Scotland ever again.
Had Celtic been five points clear at the top of the Premiership and still alive and kicking in Europe, the excitement would be starting to build ahead of the Hearts game. But because of our form, that simply isn’t happening anymore.
It’s being treated as nothing more than an inconvenience – rightly or wrongly.
Personally, I’m looking forward to it, but only because it could serve as a reminder to this squad of that glorious feeling of lifting a trophy. Hopefully beating Hearts and winning the Scottish Cup will spark something in this great club once again. It’s hopeful, but all we have at the minute is hope.
It’s just a shame what’s happened to this fixture though in the grand scheme. Our form combined with the lack of fans means that the occasion has been diluted massively. Hopefully, when the time comes, we may be in a better place and can take advantage of the opportunity to lift our 12th consecutive domestic trophy.